"Young Woman In Yoga Position" by Paul Gooddy

Bring new life to the workplace with outdoor exercise.

Smart employers use a variety of strategies to encourage their employees to be physically active. Even better, certain approaches can encourage employees to be active both on and off the job. After all, the data overwhelmingly show that employees that exercise are healthier and more productive, and that overall employee health can reduce healthcare expenses.

Still, it can be a challenge to get employees exercising, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps for some employees exercise is just not that appealing—in my experience, this often means they just don’t find gyms to be appealing. Another common obstacle is that there is not sufficient time during the workday to squeeze in an entire workout.

 The good news is that bringing employees outdoors and utilizing a corporate campus or other nearby outdoor space can help overcome these obstacles –while also reducing stress beyond what exercise alone can do. Whether it’s a simple walk outdoors or a customized outdoor workout tailored to the site, it just makes sense to take advantage of this synergy.

10 Great Reasons for Green Exercise

Outdoor exercise or, what some people are calling “green exercise,” provides extra health benefits and can be less costly than indoor fitness in the short and long run. Outdoor exercise combines the mental and physical benefits of being physically active with the psychological and physical benefits of being exposed to natural environments. 
Here are some of the most outstanding benefits that we may get when we exercise outdoors in a natural environment:

1. Reduced tension, improved concentration, higher job satisfaction. Outdoor exercisers report feeling more relaxed–and blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol and other stress marker measurements back this up.

2. Lessened brain fatigue, via “involuntary attention”—a state that holds our attention while allowing us to reflect.

3. Improved self-esteem and better mood. In fact you only need five minutes of outdoor activity to see these benefits. If there’s water nearby it’s even better.

4. Feelings of revitalization, restoration, and enjoyment. Because it feels so good, employees who walk outdoors also say they are more likely to exercise in the future.

5. Exercise feels easier. This altered perception leads to increased intensity of effort, enjoyment, motivation—and exercise frequency.

6. Jet lag antidote. Employees who travel a lot take note: the study an airline pilot pilots and engineers found that outdoor exercise was effective in recovery from jet lag, as compared with indoor exercise. Sunlight is needed to reset circadian rhythms.

7. Vitamin D benefits. Sunlight It also helps your body produce vitamin D, which has shown benefits beyond bone health, including alleviating depression and reduced risk of several types of cancer.

8. Green exercise can add new life to an existing wellness program by injecting variety, fun and excitement about observing and being part of nature.

9. Outdoor exercise can help make the most of limited resources; you don’t need to build a fancy fitness center if you have access to a “green gym.”

10. Green exercise is sustainable and better for the environment—no resources are used to build an exercise facility or manufacture equipment! Outdoor spaces generally do not require a car to reach them, saving fuel. By encouraging employees to spend time outdoors year-round, they will acclimate to the temperature, cutting down on the need for indoor air conditioning and heating—on the job and at home. And, it may encourage feelings of stewardship for the environment.

Six Simple Ways to Add Green Exercise to Employees’ Lives

1. Make green exercise a policy priority and an appealing aspect of the company “culture” and image when developing a wellness plan.

2. Identify company “champions” to promote and model outdoor exercise to employees, to organize lunch-time and break-time outings.

3. Encourage walking meetings and active commuting.

4. Consult with an outdoor exercise expert to create a customized plan for your company worksite. Go beyond walking or jogging–there are many exercises and stretches that can be adapted to existing outdoor furniture and features for a more complete and never-boring experience.

5. Make the outdoor environment appealing, with plantings, trees, flowers, and other features.

6. Encourage employees to explore outdoor exercise opportunities off the job, such as park programs, or hiking, bicycling, kayaking, skiing clubs —this offers a way to spend time with the family or friends in mutually enjoyable pursuits.

If you’d like help establishing an outdoor fitness program at your workplace, call me at 419-962-6292 or email me at nancy@nancercize.net. See my “Join us” page for more information. To do it yourself, order the book “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.”

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